Bottas looks to end the season without further penalties
Valtteri Bottas says he hopes he can make it to the end of the season without further engine penalties, as Mercedes hasn’t detected any issues with the two power units he has available. The Finn took a sixth new power unit in Austin with the five-place grid penalty dropping him from fourth to ninth, with him eventually finishing sixth
It was Bottas’s third grid penalty of the year, with him starting at the back in Monza and taking a fifteen place penalty in Sochi. He is hoping that they are done with the penalties with the new ones in his pool not having any issues, as looking to go to the end of the season without further penalties.
He told Motorsport.com, “I think both of the engines that are good in my engine pool, they seem to be okay. We haven’t detected any issues with them, so fingers crossed I can go until the end now without penalties. The case is with a close championship battle even if you get put back five places it really compromises your race.”
“I think it’s been just a question of I’ve been a bit more unlucky, it’s just before you fit the engine they have passed all the all the tests and reliability checks, and in theory, they should be okay. But just the luck has not been on my side on that, we’ve had more failures and just unlucky.”
Bottas hinted following qualifying, that it would be hard to make progress with the four Ferraris and McLarens ahead of him on the grid, and that proved to be the case. He says that his first stint wasn’t helped by being behind the Alpha Tauri’s.
Looking ahead to Mexico City, he said, “I think it’s going to be tough, no doubt. I think Red Bull is always always good there, and their power unit as well it’s normally good in the high altitude. Not expecting an easy weekend, but we’ll go there and still try to get more points than them.”
Red Bull believe Mercedes will have ‘powerful’ advantage
Red Bull believe that Mercedes could enjoy a ‘quite powerful’ benefit from its clever rear suspension at some of the remaining races of the season. Intrigue in recent races has centred around the German manufacturer’s rear suspension, with the back of the car dropping down at high speed on straights.
This behaviour helps reduce drag to boost top speed, and Red Bull believes it played a key part in the advantage that Mercedes had at the recent Turkish Grand Prix.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told Sky Sports last weekend that venues like Istanbul, with a lot of medium-speed corners and long straights, was perfect for the Mercedes concept.
Horner said, “I think that Mercedes are obviously optimising a straight line device that they’re able to do at that type of circuit. If you look at the rear of their car, how it lowers, I think [Turkey] played to their strengths.” With him believing that venues coming up will be perfect for Mercedes, with Jeddah being expected to favour Mercedes.
He says that it will have greater influence in places like Jeddah where it could be more powerful. Though Red Bull are intrigued by what Mercedes has done with its suspension, the team is clear that it does not believe that the design breaks F1’s regulations.
Horner added, “obviously, what we saw in Turkey was quite an extreme version of it, which that circuit seemed to allow.”
Mercedes has downplayed the influence of its suspension system, and thinks Red Bull is making too much of the impact it brings.
CEO and team principal Toto Wolff said: “I think we recognise absolutely that this is a sport where competitors will always try to find out if there is some kind of silver bullet. My experience is there is no such thing, it’s all the small gains, marginal gains that have been added and bring performance.
McLaren “not in nice” position in Ferrari fight – Norris
Lando Norris has admitted that McLaren is “not in a nice position” despite their championship lead over Ferrari following much-improved recent form has seen them speed ahead of their rivals on-track.
The two most successful teams in the sport’s history with fifty-one championships between them are currently locked in a battle for third. Which they hope will give them momentum when the regulations change next year as well as a boost in prize money.
McLaren has stood out more than their Italian rivals with their results this year scoring more podiums and victory. however, Ferrari has managed now cut the gap to just three and a half points after outperforming the Woking team in the last few races. Ferrari also brought an upgraded power unit in Austin, which delivered more power.
Norris told Sky Sports, “The last few races they’ve been very fast. We’ll have to push hard, try and find some extra little things for improvements.” At the moment they have the edge on us, both in Quali and in the race.”
“That’s not a nice position to be in so late in the season. We definitely need to try and find something to try and counter the attack.” McLaren finished third last season and are a team very much on the up following the lows with Honda between 2015-17, with Daniel Ricciardo helping the team to retain their narrow lead over Ferrari.
The Australian added, “he only way we’re going to beat them is to make our car as fast as possible. Both of them were in front of me on Sunday and that was certainly a focus and I knew the first lap was crucial, that’s why I was so pumped up getting Carlos. We’ll just keep chipping away. Hopefully we’re quicker in Mexico.”
Ferrari is also a team on the up, following their worst season in four decades last year and despite openly admitting that their focus was on next years regulation change.
Charles Leclerc added, “We’ve only had two or three upgrades, but they have made us do a big step forward and this is looking good for the future. [Bouncing back] was the goal but until we do it it’s very difficult to know if you’re doing things right. 2021 was all about trying to build the best car for 2022.”
It didn’t go to plan for Ferrari in Texas, Sainz was left frustrated after he finished seventh thanks to some feisty battles with Ricciardo and a very slow pit-stop. “We didn’t maximise,” said the Spaniard.
Austin bumps “on the limit” – Ocon
Esteban Ocon believes the bumps at the Circuit of the Americas were right on the limit this year and suggests they will need working on before next years race. Following the MotoGP race earlier in the month, one of the talking points was the expectation the bumps may cause similar safety concerns.
While there were no safety concerns for the teams, they did cause headaches for teams. That forced some teams to compromise on suspension and ride height setup compromises to ensure the cars could ride the bumps, the repeated violent impacts also took their toll on the cars.
Red Bull was forced to repair a hairline crack that it found on Max Verstappen’s rear wing while several cars, suffered failures on Sunday that could have been caused by the bumps.
Asked by Autosport, if he felt the bumps were acceptable for a modern F1 track, Ocon said: “I think they are on the limit. They are on the limit for reliability and I think [if they go] a little bit more if we come back next year, and it’s another step, then I think the cars will start to really face issues.”
“When you go slow it is not a big problem, but once you start going fast and it’s big hits on the floor, on the suspension, the engineers start seeing red alarms and high loads.” There have already been some suggestions that before next years race the track will be a boycott by MotoGP.
Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin admitted that the bumps had not been easy to work with, but said his outfit had been bracing itself for bigger trouble.
He said, “It was quite tricky and very difficult to say if that was a bigger issue for us than the Red Bull. I think the Red Bull had a stronger rear end here and, when you are overheating [the tyres] and bouncing around like that, rear grip is your friend. I think that is an area where their car seems to be performing very well.”
Ocon’s and Alpine’s difficult Austin
Alpine’s run of fifteen races scoring point came to an end with a double retirement for Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso in the United States Grand Prix. Ocon arrived in Austin having scored points in six of the previous seven races.
He started the race just outside the top ten in eleventh but had his race compromised following contact with Antonio Giovinazzi on the opening lap and later retired with an unspecified problem at the rear of the car.
Following the race, the Frenchman said “It was a difficult day for all of us in the team. We were lacking a bit of a pace but our race was also compromised after the touch on the first lap. It was not an easy one, but we’ll come back stronger in the next one.”
His boss Marcin Budkowski described the Grand Prix, which saw Alonso retire with a rear wing problem having fought his way from the back of the grid to the fringes of the points, was a “race to forget for us”. For Alpine, according to Budkowski everything that went wrong did in Austin, and believed that scoring points was achievable.
He added, “Unfortunately, he was hit by Giovinazzi in the first lap and suffered front wing damage, which forced us to stop to change it. From that point onwards his race was heavily compromised. There was not much to fight for, and as we suspected a problem on the car we decided to retire him as a precaution.
“Fernando drove a brave race starting from the back and we tried everything to sneak into the top 10, pushing very hard and taking risks, and trying a different strategy to build a tyre advantage towards the end. As we were closing in rapidly on the cars in front, we had a rear wing issue that robbed us of an exciting finish.”
Budkowski says there will be lots to reflect on and the team will be working hard in the remaining races.
The team are currently fifth in the constructors, with Alpha Tauri ten points behind with five races to go.